"Get up! Ron - Harry - come on now, get up, this is urgent!"
Harry sat up quickly and the top of his head hit canvas.
"S' matter?" he said.
Dimly, he could tell that something was wrong. The noises in the campsite had changed. The singing had stopped. He could hear screams, and the sound of people running. He slipped down from the bunk and reached for his clothes, but Mr. Weasley, who had pulled on his jeans over his own pajamas, said, "No time, Harry - just grab a jacket and get outside - quickly!"
Harry did as he was told and hurried out of the tent, Ron at his heels. By the light of the few fires that were still burning, he could see people running away into the woods, fleeing something that was moving across the field toward them, something that was emitting odd flashes of light and noises like gunfire.
Loud jeering, roars of laughter, and drunken yells were drifting toward them; then came a burst of strong green light, which illuminated the scene. A crowd of wizards, tightly packed and moving together with wands pointing straight upward, was marching slowly across the field. Harry squinted at them…They didn't seem to have faces…Then he realized that their heads were hooded and their faces masked. High above them, floating along in midair, four struggling figures were being contorted into grotesque shapes. It was as though the masked wizards on the ground were puppeteers, and the people above them were marionettes operated by invisible strings that rose from the wands into the air.
Two of the figures were very small. More wizards were joining the marching group, laughing and pointing up at the floating bodies. Tents crumpled and fell as the marching crowd swelled. Once or twice Harry saw one of the marchers blast a tent out of his way with his wand. Several caught fire. The screaming grew louder.
The floating people were suddenly illuminated as they passed over a burning tent and Harry recognized one of them: Mr. Roberts, the campsite manager. The other three looked as though they might be his wife and children. One of the marchers below flipped Mrs. Roberts upside down with his wand; her nightdress fell down to reveal voluminous drawers and she struggled to cover herself up as the crowd below her screeched and hooted with glee.
"That's sick," Ron muttered, watching the smallest Muggle child, who had begun to spin like a top, sixty feet above the ground, his head flopping limply from side to side. "That is really sick…"
Hermione and Ginny came hurrying toward them, pulling coats over their nightdresses, with Mr. Weasley right behind them. At the same moment, Bill, Charlie, and Percy emerged from the boys' tent, fully dressed, with their sleeves rolled up and their wands out.
"We're going to help the Ministry!" Mr. Weasley shouted over all the noise, rolling up his own sleeves. "You lot - get into the woods, and stick together. I'll come and fetch you when we've sorted this out!"
Bill, Charlie, and Percy were already sprinting away toward the oncoming marchers; Mr. Weasley tore after them. Ministry wizards were dashing from every direction toward the source of the trouble. The crowd beneath the Roberts family was coming ever closer.
"C'mon," said Fred, grabbing Ginny's hand and starting to pull her toward the wood. Harry, Ron, Hermione, and George followed. They all looked back as they reached the trees. The crowd beneath the Roberts family was larger than ever; they could see the Ministry wizards trying to get through it to the hooded wizards in the center, but they were having great difficulty. It looked as though they were scared to perform any spell that might make the Roberts family fall.
And then they heard a new sound.
"Ministry officials, please vacate the immediate area quickly and calmly," said a woman's voice. She spoke loudly and clearly with enough natural authority to make Harry think immediately of Dumbledore.
He, Hermione, and the Weasleys stopped and turned to look back.
The Ministry officials must have thought she sounded like Dumbledore, too, for they were backing off with no argument. And, 'she' appeared to be a pretty woman with long brown hair and a stance like an experienced fighter. Surrounding her were two other pretty women, a man with dirty blond hair, and two bigger men with dark brown hair. They all stood as if they were born to dominate the battlefield, and the approaching men in silver masks did little to dampen that image.
The woman who had spoken flicked her wrists and the Muggle child that had been spinning like a top froze in place, as though time itself had frozen. The Muggle mother screamed.
"Phoebe," said the first woman, and one of the other women rose in the air, appearing to levitate without a spell. She flew up to the Muggle woman and child and spoke briefly to the mother. Then the woman nodded and wrapped one arm securely around Phoebe. Phoebe took the frozen child in her other arm. Together, Phoebe slowly levitated to the ground. She returned for Mr. Roberts, and once the family was reunited, the first woman flicked her hands at the little boy, and he unfroze, wobbled, and plopped to the ground, dizzy.
"Follow me," said one of the men with brown hair, and he led the Muggle family away from the masked Wizards.
The others faced the masked Wizards, their expressions turning cold and angry.
"They're not demons," said Phoebe, "so don't kill them. I think the Ministry would like to arrest them."
"Got it," said the two other women. They took defensive stances, and the two remaining men stepped out of the way.
"Are they Muggle fighting?" breathed Ron. "They can't be serious! Where are their wands?"
"Didn't you see them use their hands?" returned Hermione, who was watching with wide eyed fascination. "I don't think they need wands! Oh, my God – I think they must be the Charmed Ones!"
She practically squealed the last part, and the others turned to stare at her.
"What?" asked Harry.
"The Charmed Ones! They're Wiccan sisters who were prophesized to fight evil! Together, they're the most powerful force of Good in this world!"
"They don't need wands, and their spells are a little different than ours," she explained, then made a 'shush' gesture, returning her attention to the scene behind them.
Harry, Ron, Fred, George, and Ginny shared looks before doing the same.
The ensuing fight was incredible. The three women – sisters – didn't use wands at all, though they dodged spells, curses, and jinxes like they had been training for it their whole lives. They dodged through the jets of light with spectacular leaps, rolls, and flips until they got close enough to the caster to kick his feet out from under him or punch his mask clean off and reveal a bloody nose.
The wizards were interrupted from watching the fight, however, by a crashing sound from behind them and then the yell of, "Motherfu – WYATT! You dumbass!"
They whirled around and found two teenagers about their ages untangling themselves on the ground. The rustling bushes behind them indicated that they had just fallen through.
One of the boys seemed closer to Harry, Ron, and Hermione's age; he had dark brown hair and light eyes, which were currently narrowed in a lethal glare at the other boy. The other boy seemed closer to Fred and George's age; he had blond hair and equally light eyes. He looked exasperated and retorted,
"Look, if you hadn't gotten us lost in the first pl-"
"Me?! You're the one with the Magical Spidey Senses, you twice-blessed assho-"
"Dude, stop cussing! You've already been grounded twice this week for it!"
"Well, I wouldn't have to if you'd just use a little bit of common sense every once in a while," the brunette snapped and, for the first time, looked up to find their audience. He blinked, and the blond, noticing his distraction, glanced over at them, too.
"Oh," said the blond. He quickly finished untangling himself from the brunette and got to his feet. He stood awkwardly. "Hi."
The wizards and witches stared.
The brunette clambered up as well and, instead of giving a greeting, looked over their shoulders at the fight unfolding below. He swore again. The blond gave him a dirty look.
"They're already fighting," the brunette said. "Think they noticed we weren't in the tent when they got up?"
"Um, I'd be willing to bet that yes, yes they probably noticed. And they'll be coming to kick our butts next. Why did we absolutely need to see the leprechaun shindig again?"
"How many times have you seen leprechauns getting jiggy with it?" asked the brunette as if that answered everything. He shook his head at the blond's stupidity.
"Chris, we just went to the Fall Festival not a week ago! Not only did we see leprechauns dancing, there were nymphs, brownies, faeries, pixies –"
"You are entirely missing the point," the brunette, now revealed as 'Chris' said.
"Wait," said Hermione, her eyes going impossibly wide. "Wyatt and Chris? Halliwell?"
The boys winced and shared a sidelong look.
"She's onto us," Chris muttered out of the corner of his mouth.
Wyatt eyed her warily. "Are we erasing their memories or convincing them they're mistaken?"
Chris blinked. Then he turned and stared fully at Wyatt. "Well, we can't good-all convince them they're mistaken now, can we? Dear Jesus, are you really that thick? I can't believe we're related. Seriously. Cannot. Believe."
Wyatt rolled his eyes and returned his attention to Hermione. "Yeah," he said. "I'm Wyatt Halliwell. That's Christopher Halliwell. Would you terribly mind not telling our mother and aunts we were roaming around at night trying to locate the whereabouts of the leprechaun hoedown? We'd be much obliged. They'd kill us."
"Oh," said Hermione. "Er – sure. Alright."
"You found the Leprechaun Romp?" exclaimed Fred and George in unison, their eyes filling with awed sparkles. "Are you serious?"
Chris smirked. "Hell yeah, we found it. And it was incredible. I don't know how they managed to smuggle all that beer in. Even shrunk…."
"We're pretty sure it was enough to change the overall composition of the Atlantic," added Wyatt, nodding solemnly.
Fred and George shared truly impish looks. They turned back to Chris and Wyatt and asked, "Where?"
Chris opened his mouth to reply, but was cut off by a feminine shout from the campground. His face snapped back to the fight, eyes losing the wicked glint in favor of a sharp, experienced look.
The wizards and witches spun around to find one of the women crumpling to the ground, a faint purple glow pulsing around her unmoving form.
"Paige," breathed Wyatt, his face draining of color, even in the firelight.
"Wyatt," said Chris sharply.
"Right," said Wyatt. His jaw tensed, and the two pushed through Harry, Hermione, and the Weasleys, sprinting for the battle.
"Oh, my God," gasped Hermione, stumbling to catch her balance after the thoughtless shove. "They can't just charge off like that!"
"They can if they're really Halliwells," said Ginny. Her expression was grim and just a little unnerved. "We used to hear bedtime stories about their family vanquishing demons and ridding the world of evil. Their powers aren't like ours."
Wyatt and Chris split up just a second before they hit the meat of the fight. While Wyatt made a beeline for Paige, his hands already beginning to glow gold, Chris roundhouse kicked the nearest wizard in the chest, sending him flying with just a little too much force to be natural. The man landed in a heap and didn't get up. Wyatt folded to Paige's side and held his glowing hands over her, and Chris moved to fight back to back with the woman with the longest hair, who had let herself be surrounded by five wizards. He flicked his wrist and sent two wizards careening backwards by some invisible force. They landed yards away in sprays of dirt.
The woman spun around and screamed, "Christopher! What the hell do you think you're doing? Get back to the forest! And take your brother! NOW!"
"Mom, we've got this! Don't worry!"
"CHRISTOPHER, I'M NOT JOKING AROUND! GET OUT OF HERE!"
"Mom!" Chris grabbed his mother by the shoulders and threw her and himself to the ground a split second before a jet of green light could hit them. He rolled off her and slapped the ground, and, as if ripping itself directly from the earth, a rope of scarlet fire lashed out by the man's feet and struck him in the chest like whip. He crashed backward with an agonized scream and writhed.
"I am useful enough now?" Chris asked his mother, glaring.
The woman glared right back, unamused. At length, however, she said, "Duck, don't try shielding. The worst ones just go straight through."
Chris nodded. "Right."
They jumped back to their feet and started in on the remaining two Death Eaters. The other woman finished her fight and ran to help Chris, whose opponent had gotten too close for the fire trick and seemed immune to telekinesis. She levitated and dropkicked the Death Eater in the back. As he went down, Chris caught his shoulders, kneed him in the stomach, and sent him down harder with an elbow to the back of the neck. He didn't move when he hit the dirt.
Chris and the other woman slapped hands companionably.
"'Bout time you're old enough to help," the woman said with a grin. "God, I missed this."
Even from the hill above, the Gryffindors could see Chris frown in confusion. "Missed this? What are you talking about?"
"Phoebe!" said the mother, finishing her Death Eater with a punch to the unmasked face. "Enough chit chat. Y'all start roping up the Death Eaters. And be careful! Just because they're down doesn't–"
"–always mean they're out," Chris and Phoebe chorused. "We know."
"Hey, Wyatt," said Chris, strolling over. "Some rope?"
Wyatt glanced up from the ground where Paige was beginning to stir, no longer glowing the ugly purple. "Huh?" he said and, noticing that the fight was over, "Oh. Rope. Yeah."
He waved a hand and over a dozen lengths of rope simply fell out of the air at Chris' feet. Chris bent down, grabbed a few, slung them over his shoulder, and handed the rest to Phoebe. They kept close together as they grabbed Death Eaters by the collars of robes and began tying them up. Piper moved around subduing the ones that were still moving. Wyatt helped Paige, who was rubbing her head as if from a hangover, sit up.
"That," said Ron, "was wicked!"
"Amazing," breathed Hermione as the other Weasleys and Harry echoed Ron's sentiment.
After a few minutes, the Ministry officials began trickling back in from the forest. They used their wands to finish tying up the remaining Death Eaters and started rounding them up, all the while thanking the Halliwells and yelling for some dementors from Azkaban.
Harry shuddered and wondered if they'd be able to leave before the dementors showed up.
"We'll ask Dad," said Ron, noticing the shudder. "I don't think anyone wants to be around when they get here."
Harry just nodded and tried not to feel the blush that threatened to climb up his neck and into his cheeks.
Together, Harry, Hermione, and the Weasleys navigated their way through the growing crowd, keeping an eye out for Mr. Weasley or the tent, whichever they happened upon first.
As it was, Mr. Weasley appeared out of nowhere and grabbed them. "Harry, Ron, Hermione!" he said. "Come on, Mrs. Halliwell would like to speak to you three."
Harry, Ron, and Hermione exchanged startled glances.
"About what?" asked Ron as they nevertheless followed Mr. Weasley.
"Oh, you know," said Mr. Weasley. "Hogwarts and your escapades and whatnot."
"They know about us?" asked Hermione shrilly.
"They spent the game with the minister," said Mr. Weasley. "Special guests. And you know how he likes to impress. Come on, they're just over here…."
A few seconds later found Harry, Ron, Hermione, Chris, Wyatt, and Piper being left alone inside the Halliwell tent. The inside of the tent looked like a normal house: a small living room with sofas and coffee tables, separated bedrooms, bathrooms, and a rather large kitchen. They could hear Paige and Phoebe chatting in the kitchen from where they sat in the living room.
"So, I hear you three attend the magic school here," said Piper, setting a plate of what looked like freshly baked chocolate chip cookies on the table in front of them. Harry's mouth watered, and he, Ron, and Hermione took a few.
"Yes, ma'am," said Harry when he could speak through the mouthful. "Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry."
Piper waved a hand and said, "It's Piper, please. And how do you like it there? Classes good, teachers competent? Safe? I've heard you've been through quite a few dangerous situations."
"They were only dangerous because I was specifically targeted," said Harry, feeling a need to stick up for his school and Dumbledore. "The other students have never been in any more danger than they would have anywhere else."
Piper laughed slightly. "It's okay, Harry. I understand." She laughed again and said, "Trust me, I understand."
Harry laughed nervously. "Yeah," he said. "I guess you would."
"And the classes?" she prompted. "How would you describe those?"
"They're exemplary, Mrs. Halliwell," said Hermione, sitting on the edge of the sofa and seeming to quiver with her enthusiasm. "The teachers are experts in their fields, and they expect the best from each of us. They're always willing to help anyone who's having trouble, and they make sure to keep everything as safe as possible. They're tremendously helpful."
Piper nodded, seeming to consider it. "The reason I ask," she said slowly, "is because that one–" she made a vague motion towards Chris, "–got expelled from our magic school, and I need to find another place for him. And that one–" she nodded towards Wyatt, "–is itching for a charge, and Dumbledore seems to think Harry would be a nice start."
"Charge?" said Harry at the same time Ron snickered,
"It was an accident," said Chris, crossing his arms. "That's my story, and I'm sticking to it."
Piper rolled her eyes. "I know how good with potions you are, Christopher," she said. "You haven't 'accidently' made something explode like that since you were eight."
"It was more difficult than any potion I'd tried before!"
"You blew up nine classrooms and the cafeteria! There's just no way–"
"Eight and a half! And nobody liked the cafeteria, anyway."
Piper and Chris glared at each other. Wyatt, who was sitting between them, leaned backwards as far as he could as if fearing crossfire.
After several seconds, Harry repeated tentatively, "Er, could we get back to the charge thing…?"
Piper blinked and returned her attention to him. "Oh," she said and gave a forced-sounding laugh. "Um, Wyatt's half whitelighter, but he's always been closer to it than his Wiccan side, so he wants to try being a whitelighter at Hogwarts. You're the prime candidate for his first charge. Is that okay with you? I promise he's very capable and mature for his age. Unlike Chris."
While Piper explained what a whitelighter was, Harry tried to concentrate but found it hard. Chris was staring at him. Intently. His expression looked like he was trying to work out a puzzle which he had mastered before but had somehow forgotten.
When Piper finished, Chris didn't give Harry a chance to react before interrupted,
"Have we met before? You look really familiar."
Harry blinked and said, "Earlier, on the hill…."
Chris rolled his eyes. "No, no," he said. "Before that."
"I've been in the papers a lot."
"I don't keep up with Wizarding papers."
"Then I don't know," said Harry, feeling irritation beginning to spark in his abdomen. "You tell me."
"Well, obviously I don't know, or I wouldn't have asked."
Harry felt his eyes narrow involuntarily. "…I hope you get sorted into Slytherin."
"Nothing," said Harry. "Nothing whatsoever."
Chris eyed him. "We're going to clash, aren't we?"
"Like Weasleys and Malfoys."
"I would have said, 'Like Godzilla and Mothra,' personally."
"…Let's change it to Voldemort and Dumbledore."
"Toothpaste and orange juice."
"Oh," said Harry, wincing. "Done."
"Done." Chris smirked.
Ron grinned and said, "This is going to be a fun year."
"Definitely not quiet," muttered Wyatt, and Hermione sighed.
"It never is," she said.
Chris and Harry grinned.
A/N: Hey, guys! Um... very late. I know. But here it is, and thanks for sticking with me to the very end. I can't tell you how much I appreciate it. You guys have been such a great audience. =)
Thank you, Stoneage Woman for beta-ing. You're the best. =)
I don't know if I'll be on Fanfiction(.)net much longer. The world of original fiction has dragged me to her kicking and screaming, so most of my time is monopolized by that. But my time here has been fun, and, looking back at Fishy Chrissy and most of this, I can't believe how much I've grown as a writer. And the reviews supporting me along the way were absolutely invaluable. Thank you, guys. Really. You've made it an experience I'll never regret.
So, thanks again, and see you around!
PS, For those of you reading Tangled Webs, I'm sorry, but I don't know if I'll be able to finish it. I'll try my best over the summer, but I can't make any promises.